In Sen. Maria Cantwell and challenger Mike McGavick, Washington has two fully qualified choices for the Senate. The better choice is the Republican, McGavick.More bad news for Bryan Burke, Eastern WA Voters, the Whitman County Democrats, and the WSU Young Democrats.
Some see this election as a referendum on George W. Bush. If we did, we would be for a solid Democratic ticket. But like most Washington voters, we take our candidates one at a time. Mike McGavick is an unusual businessman-politician. He managed the multibillion-dollar turnaround of Safeco Corporation, sacrificing some jobs but saving many others. He showed a sense of social purpose in his stress on racial inclusion at Safeco. He knows politics, having worked for Sen. Slade Gorton. He has run a clean campaign.
Critics will note that McGavick supports the elimination of the federal estate tax, a cause for which The Seattle Times has campaigned many years. That is part of why we endorse him, but not most of it. We endorsed Cantwell six years ago, knowing her position on the estate tax, and could endorse her again.
In six years, Cantwell has grown somewhat in independence and influence, but not as much, we think, as Sen. Patty Murray did in her first six years, or as Gorton did in his. Cantwell has differed with her party by supporting free trade, which any senator from Washington must, but not on enough other issues.
To demonstrate his independence, McGavick has called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He also shows realistic thinking on a range of issues.
On the Iraq war, McGavick wants to find a way to win and Cantwell wants to find a way not to lose.
These sound like different positions, but really are not, and we are disappointed that neither candidate has called for America to leave Iraq. There is a difference, though, in how each would follow America's bad investment.
McGavick would consider the deployment of more troops. That is painful but possible. Cantwell would have other countries pay for a multinational occupation, and have Turkey and Egypt send troops. That is wonderful but unreal. A candidate from either party calling for an immediate withdrawal would be refreshing, but that seems beyond the imagination of modern campaigns.
On energy, we agree with Cantwell that it is not necessary, at least not yet, to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Cantwell calls for energy independence through renewables like biodiesel and wind. We are for these ideas to the extent they are real, but we agree with McGavick that "when you study renewables you don't see big numbers relative to economic need." He would have a look at nuclear power and build the waste repository at Yucca Mountain. Cantwell voted against Yucca Mountain.
The nation's democracy is at stake as giant media companies continue to calcify the country's strong need for independent voices. Cantwell understands the issue, but once again has not shown significant leadership to a very real problem. We believe McGavick's independent mind would be useful in untying the knot of media consolidation.
On Social Security, Cantwell says the system should retain its mandatory, fixed-benefit structure. We agree — and McGavick does not — but we note that Cantwell proposes to make Social Security's cost-of-living adjustment more generous. Given Social Security's long-term deficit, that suggestion is unrealistic.
When asked about control of public spending, Cantwell restates her support of the line-item veto, a reform that would require a constitutional amendment and therefore isn't realistic, either. Her actual voting record has not been for restraint.
On a specific cause, Cantwell can be very effective. She went after Enron, in defense of Snohomish County ratepayers, like a bloodhound. But for six years, liberals have been grumbling about her caution on the big things, and about that they are right.
McGavick, in contrast, showed at Safeco that he was able to take on big problems. We think he could make an innovative and influential senator for Washington.
You see the Times feels McGavick "has run a clean campaign." The same cannot be said of our local Democrats. Carilyn Cress and Jane Guido have attempted to manufacture their own little Foleyesque scandal right here in Whitman County. The airwaves and letters to the editor are filled with vitriol, lies and negativity. Friday afternoon, as people poured into Pullman for the football game, the Rats were out waving signs, not just in support of their candidates, but with scurrilous falsehoods such as McMorris is stealing from disabled veterans and that McGavick needs to keep his hands off some 20 year old's Social Security, whatever that means. As the WSU Young Democrats posted on their web site, "we'll be holding anti-McMorris signs in downtown Pullman." Not "pro-Goldmark" mind you, but "anti-McMorris." This is what passes as a "battle of ideas" these days. And the Rats wonder why they lose so much. It is time to "vote for a change" alright.